It was a Wednesday. Hump Day, and the sun was setting over the Big Bay. Reds and yellows danced across the gentle waves, rippling, receding towards the horizon, creeping behind the buildings and Navy ships. This city is finally as warm as it should be, which means it’s far too warm to run while the sun is still above your eyeline, so I’ve gotten into the habit of evening runs.
Shuffle on my ipod was again serving me well, and I managed to hit the mellow patch of music just after I had finished my workout. That night was a good run, and I was settling in on the rocks of the bay, perched like a gull, watching the couples stroll hand in hand. A few children were still out, either screaming like banshees or falling asleep in daddy’s arms, and some sort of event was winding down at tiny park peninsula that jutted out into the bay. Blue and purple lights shone down on rows of tables and folding chairs, and a banner hung with vocabulary words I never leaned in my semester and a half of Spanish. A woman walked past, talking excitedly on her cell phone and I came to two conclusions – the event was a success, and if I ever move to San Diego, I will need to learn Spanish.
A favorite song came on, and as I sat watching the reds and yellows and dance on the rippling water something occurred to me. This song, which I have loved since the day I heard it, didn’t fit here. Not in that blaringly awkward way that Nine Inch Nails doesn’t fit a car ride with your grandmother, but in a way that was equally pronounced.
You have to understand – this song always fits. Alright, it’s not a party pump-up song, but in that way that Iron and Wine used to fit everything else we did, this song always fit my life. Hold your heart courageously as we walk into this dark place. Just like Autumn leaves we’re in for change. Love is the province of the brave. Suddenly, all your history’s ablaze.
It didn’t fit. I realized that for the first time in I can’t REMEMBER HOW LONG, my history wasn’t aflame. Sitting, rocking on those rocks I was as calm as the water hitting them – not breaking in white caps but washing, coating, retreating, and swaying back to them again.
I like to say that I’m a person without regrets, which I still think is true, but up until now I’ve had to say it in my characteristically loud and authoritative push voice. I don’t regret my past because I subscribe to a very Homeric-epic way of seeing the world – as if we are all players in the great mythology of humanity. No story is complete without Scylla and Charybdis or that ten years you spent on an island loving a woman that wasn’t your wife. Every mistake I’ve made I’ve cherished, because it branded me and shaped me and made me and my life what it is. That’s what I tell myself. You can hear me saying it can’t you? Maybe you have. I don’t regret anything I did. I don’t regret anything I did. I don’t regret anything I did.
But why then, does it still burn? I would ask myself. There were always phantom limbs and phantoms themselves appearing just when you thought you didn’t believe in them any longer. And the burned. Like the long ends of my fiery hair they burned, burned, and even when I cut off the hair I could. Not. Cut. Off. My. Flaming. Histories.
Until yesterday, on the sunset of humpday, apparently. I sat there at peace with my histories, and realized I have been doing so for some time. Only a couple weeks I suppose, but it’s a start, and more importantly, I could feel that they had burned themselves out, leaving me at peace.
Several months ago was history ablaze, and I was museum hopping in Boston. In one room we came across an incredible work of art – the leftover pieces of a spent fire suspended with fishing line from the ceiling. The entire room was filled with blackened pieces of wood, dead embers, ashes and charred remnants seemingly floating in the air. A small commentary was printed on the wall, noting the artist’s feelings that when people see ashes they see nothing left, but he felt ashes and charred remnants were as beautiful as any fire. They were beautiful. They lacked the kind of seductive danger and erratic nature of the the fire that had once been, but when pulled apart they were somehow so filled with life. Together they were massive and powerful, but they were completely still, utterly calm. They were fire at peace.
Today my histories are hung from the ceiling. Burning no longer, but not obsolete, they fill the room quietly. Powerfully, put peacefully. It’s like I am walking in the door to greet them, hello old friend, and then I put down my car keys, take off my stilettos, and walk past them. Then I put on an old tee shirt and my sneakers, pressing play, nodding to them on my way out the door, and I run off toward the setting sun.
“When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.” – Peace Pilgrim